“Come come, don’t worry, there will be a room for you when you arrived”. It was the first time Alam Jan replied my queries in whatsapp.
Alam Jan Dario is one of the few pioneers that promote tourism in the northern Pakistan since 20 years ago. Also, he is a talented person and well verse in poetry, music, photography, trekking and a community leader. He is currently running a guest house (Pamir Serai) in Chapursan valley, hosting tons of foreigners from all over the world.
I still remembered the first day I arrived in Zudkhun, it was a cold evening, but Alam Jan been standing outside of his housing compound waiting for his guest from far east.
Alam and his wife, have 4 kids. 2 of youngest ones are still studying in the nearby village school. Every morning, Alam’s wife will prepare breakfast for the kids before they go to school at 8am.
Amenities in Chapursan are simple and basic; there is no internet and electricity doesn’t function most of the time.
“Won’t you feel bored living in places like Chapursan?” I asked Alam.
“No no, there are many things to do everyday, like planting trees or cleaning stuff. Life is easy, but complicated”, he replied in smile.
Since then, I’d been helping Alam to clean his jeep, planting trees, making canals for the farm. When the kids are around, I would play with the kids. I could feel that it’s a relaxing and happy life. However, living conditions in Chapursan is very harsh, especially winter.
Sometimes I did nothing, just sit & stare blankly towards the peaceful environment. “Back our house, are the pamir mountains. Afghanistan is just some distance away after Baba Ghundi. (Baba Ghundi is a famous holy site for Sufi). Our ancestor came from Wakhan, and we speak the same language, Wakhi.”
“Life there is very difficult?” I asked Alam curiously.
“Oh yeah, they don’t have house. They lives in tent. But last time when it was Soviet Union time, people like it. They can get food. Now is difficult”, Alam replied in grim face.
Along the border of Afghanistan, there is another village named Rumboor in western Pakistan. It’s a tribal area where the people are non-Muslim (Kalashi). For decades, they believed they are the descendant of Alexandra The Great. Till today, they still maintain their traditions and cultures.
Kalashi loves music and dance. This can be seen during the Chilam Joshi festival, happened in May. At the centre of the dance hall, a group of people will play some music instrument. Then, boys and girls, with their respective groups, will move and dance around the centre group.
All the villages (Rumboor, Bamburoet & Birir) in Kalash Valley are famous tourist attraction nationwide. However, 10km further west of Rumboor village, there is a less-known village named Shiekhandeh, where Red-Kalashi live in. It’s the last village bordering with Afghanistan. Unlike the tribal Black-Kalashi, Red-kalashi been embraced Islam since long time ago.
The government put a lot of effort to ensure the safety of foreigners in the country. Just to name a few, you’ll need LOI (letter of invitation) from someone trustable in Pakistan, for you to apply for visa. Also, foreigners cannot simply book any accommodation in Pakistan. I had one encounter, where I booked a room but was not allowed to stay in it because (considered) not safe for foreigners. It was in the midnight 2am when I arrived in Rawalpindi from Chitral. Fortunately, with the help of some local tourist, I able to find a hotel eventually. In Chapursan, the army confiscated the ID card of the driver, just to make sure the driver will ensure my safety throughout my stay in Chapursan.
The most wonderful of all, there will be police escort for foreigners at certain region such as Hunza and Chitral.
Pakistan, is famously labeled as a country that closely related to terrorist activities. Sadly, this is untrue and a wrong perception painted by the media or by someone who never step a foot on the country itself. In fact, it’s one of the best countries I’ve ever visited.